Everyone sees the national tug-o-war in our nation's capital. Most of us see it in our state capitals, too. Depending on the numbers and the resulting imbalance of power, they pull either to the right or to the left. Out here in the real America people are weary of what we see. "Why can not they just get together?" we wonder – even out loud we wonder.
The reason Washington is so divided is that "we the people" are so divided. So, all over this great country we elect people to represent us – and they do! Most of us could identify representatives and senators who are pulling our direction. We like them. When people shout in their frustration, "Fire them all!" We may be inclined to say, "amen!". But, if we did "fire them all," we would all be looking for more people to go and represent us and our views again.
From our infant days as a nation, we have had a populace with diverse opinions on a great number of issues. This would be visible in any nation where people are free to have and express opinions. Of course, this is precisely the kind of nation our founders formed.
The great division in our nation is not a simple matter; it is made up of multiple players. Let's look at some of the big players.
Certainly differenting ideologies are a part of this. Most of us have some loyalty to a political ideology wherever left, right or center.
Personal values have an important role, too. And the varied sources of our values are a significant factor, in that many different philosophies and religions exert formative influence on us. Where in the past, values were largely formed in the churches and reinforced in public education, in recent decades values have been more shaped by the television and cinema.
Power-hungry politicians are major players in our divided America. These men and women may be devoted to a particular ideology, but they can be merely devoted to being in control. Thus, they may say whatever people want to hear in order to be in control. Politicians tend to be people who are good at debt; and the really skilled debater can arguably either side of a debate rigidly, convincingly.
Finally, we must include the media into the mix of our division. From what they report and do not report, to how they report what they report, and whether left-leaning or right-leaning, intentional bias is part of the package. And when they lean, their influence is bi-directional. They influence those they intended by encouraging a desired perspective; but just as surely, they influence people who hear and react to that intended influence in the opposite direction. I believe that the increasing likelihood bias to the left of mainstream media accounts for the establishment and success of FoxNews. The more liberal bias was observed by conservative people, the more dissatisfied they became with the mainstream, the more they resisted that influence. Those conservative people found a home at Fox. Imagine a liberal listening to FoxNews; he or she is likely to become angry and more entrenched in their liberal stance. Media is powerful, yet it is a two-edged sword.
Our nation has always been rolled in different directions by different forces. But in the 1960's the culture war, though as undeclared as the Vietnam War of that day, was every bit as real. One major victory for those intent upon moving America in a new direction was in the 1962 Supreme Court decision (Engle V Vitale) which banned prayer in public schools, at least by anyone being paid by the state. What was this offensive prayer? Here it is: "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country. Amen." A host of similar court decisions have further limited expressions of faith in public education. This was accomplished by people who find religion offensive.
The import of these religious decisions in the courts should not be missed. In April 1966, Time Magazine's cover asked, "Is God Dead?". The article in that issue suggested that God was, in fact, dead.
Fast-forward to 1973 for another major Supreme Court victory for people with new values and a new direction for our nation. In Roe V Wade, abortion was made legal across the land. States could only control or limit abortions in specific ways. In my opinion, this court decision galvanized the national division. Were you for this new direction, these new values, that contrasted biblical values? If you were, you were on one side. If you were not for them, you were on the opposite side. Of course, this is about abortion, but it is about so much more. It is about values we hold, and from where do we get our values.
For the past 50 years, much of our society has believed that "God is Dead" or at least the subject of God is irrelevant. Thus, the Bible is also irrelevant, as are all values derived therefrom. But we have not bought that secret-humanist propaganda. In fact, many of us are as devoted as ever to the Bible and the God of it. Make no mistake here, this battle is not merely religious and irreligious, Bible-believers and Bible-haters. There are many church people, even church leaders, who disregard the Bible. And there are many – not especially religious people – who hold many biblical values wherever they know it or not.
Our country is deeply divided. Here is how I see it: Something like 20-30% of our population is strongly pulling left. Another 20-30% is firmly pulling right. In the middle is 40-60% who do not care – for whatever reasons. They do not understand why every election cycle is so intense. They do not understand why every time there is a Supreme Court vacancy, a major battle ensues. Maybe they just hate conflict. Maybe thinking makes them tired, and they're already tired. Until or without a fundamental part of that middle group shifts one way or the other, our country will remain sorely divided. And that division, I suggest, is in our people, not just in Washington. Washington will not change until we the people do.